Wounds from Various Types of Bullying: Part One

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Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

Okay so this blog post could go anywhere this week. The complexities of bullying?! Where do we begin? There’s so much we could discuss concerning bullying. For this I’m talking about the slights that injured you and this could be picking on someone’s shoes, parent, size, etc. For today I’d like to focus on bullying based on perceptions of a child looking different due to another child’s racism or xenophobia.

When I was young I was bullied daily and I wasn’t sure if it was strictly because of my size or something else. Later I learned that children can say hurtful things because you have different foods than they do or have caregivers that look different. For example, I grew up in a very White supremacist area where skinheads reside and didn’t think I experienced any “othering” by my peers as a child because I thought I looked White. I’m mixed Iranian and White. My experience is nothing like the overt stabs of racist comments, isolation, and abuses that friends with darker skin tones than I experienced. I continue to acknowledge and address my White privilege. I’ve also seen neo Nazis accost my parent after soccer practice, police call my parent a terrorist when pulling him over, and more. After further reflection I started to realize the environment I grew up in may have impacted the way children saw me and they may not have known why they were treating me with such daily unkindness and this othering.

I’ll never know whether they treated me differently because of how they were raised and what that told them about the foods I brought to school or the people they saw around me. I just know that people continue to report that they were treated with inequity, hurtfulness, and harm by peers who perceived them to be different. This othering and bullying certainly continues. The racism that people grow up with can stick with children and can be traumatically hurtful. As a healing provider I see the damages for folx. Not only does research indicate that children know about ethnicity, but data also shows that children’s self esteem is impacted by discrimination (from a study conducted in 2011 by Dulin-Keita, Hannon, Fernandez, and Cockerham, which can be found here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3083924/).

I also get to witness life changing examples of parenting where children are exposed to a variety of people and views. I see how much they benefit from an open heart and broad exposure to various cultures, languages, skin tones, etc. Research even shows exposure to multiple ways of being in the world can help us be more creative (from a study conducted in 2019 by Tang, Wang, Guo, Zeng, Zhou, and Cao, which can be found here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6499159/). There are so many ways that bullying and racism can injure, while we as the psychologists and healing providers know that the opposite (exposure to various backgrounds) is beneficial for everyone in several ways. That’s all for this week and I hope we can continue to discuss this important topic for weeks to come.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

Grounding for Dissociation

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Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

Everyone has some form of dissociation. People may range from zoning out or daydreaming to experiencing dissociative identity disorder. Folks may wonder why they’ve been feeling more absent minded or forgetful and it could be a number of reasons. I love to make sure their physical health is okay and before jumping to other stuff I like to check in with their stress and how this feels in their body and psyche. Here are some suggestions to address dissociation and they’re in no particular order.

  1. Take the test. With every assessment there are issues. This is a great dissociation questionnaire; however, it doesn’t account for as much of the cognitive dissociation I’d prefer. For example, I serve folks recovering from obsessive and intrusive thoughts and this questionnaire doesn’t ask much about obsessive thoughts taking someone away from the present moment. Nonetheless, if you’ve been feeling out of it or not in the present as much as you’d like, you may benefit from taking this questionnaire to get an idea of your dissociation. http://traumadissociation.com/des Knowing more about what’s up can be so helpful.
  2. Feel your body. Doing a daily body scan can also be so helpful. If people are not sure what emotions they feel or they’re not sure where these emotions come up in their bodies I like to direct them to a few key points. I direct the person to check in with their forehead, jaw, throat, shoulders, heart space, seat, and arms and legs. You can also do a more formal and thorough scan of the body to see if there’s tension, ease, heaviness, tightness, etc. If you experience some dysphoria as you check in with certain areas in your body maybe start with areas that are less charged. This is a practice of safety, not pushing oneself past a space that feels safe. For some, escaping the body served you very well at one point or another. If attuning with your body makes more sense for you now, it can be so skillful to do a couple of check ins with key areas in your body. I tend to check in with my forehead, jaw, shoulders, heart space, and low back. These are areas I’ve noticed carry more feelings than the rest of my body. Noting or observing feelings that are there is so helpful so they don’t go ignored or get stuffed down through the fast vibes of the day. You’re so worth it to be in your body now.
  3. Ground. Another helpful way to approach these zoning out spells is to ground oneself. I like to keep it super simple with this one. When our minds or bodies or sweet little sympathetic nervous systems are feeling chaos or distraction we can tune in with the moment and ground ourselves in the here and now. One might state the ground they are on; for example, I’m often on Muwekma land. You can also try noting three things you see, three things you see, and three things you feel right here in this moment. If one of those senses are not accessible you can try grounding with another sense. You can tune into the sensory experience fully. For example, you can feel the softness, bumps, heaviness, and warmth of the material on your lap right here in this moment before moving onto a second thing you feel in this moment.
  4. Explore where it comes from. I’d recommend talking with someone or joining a group where you can explore said dissociation if you feel safe exploring. Some reasons for dissociation may be because someone is feeling triggered from a childhood wound (such as abandonment), oppression (such as racist remarks), life stressors (such as a pandemic), etc. People may experience lapses of being present, feeling they aren’t really here or real, forgetting things, or are more distracted. With a gentle lens they can view what is going on for them. Perhaps a friend left them or their caregiver is sick. This could elicit grief and the person may not notice the grief so much but they may see that they are more absent minded, forgetful, or day dreaming more often. This is totally understandable. That is perfectly okay and we can go back to compassion for those parts of you that may have had to dissociate in order to protect themselves. Knowing that some of what’s going on is dissociation may help you get supported and share. Talking about it in a trusting environment can get you the connection you need during these times. You are so worthy and enough of getting support for any dissociation or other trauma and stressor symptoms you may be experiencing.

Thanks so much for learning a bit about what’s up with your zoning out moments and feel free to check in next week for more about loving you.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

Mood Plan

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Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

What’s your mood plan? What will you do to care for your mood today? Do you do so much for your mental health only to notice the change in seasons and increase in darkness impact your moods? Well you’re not alone. It’s more common than we’re aware of or talk about. For some, it’s a natural hibernation, for others it’s seasonal affective disorder. For folx who struggle with their moods, in addition to talking about this with your providers you can also develop a gentle, compassionate, and consistent mood plan.

Some things people incorporate into their mood plan are below and there’s so many more ideas too! People might:

-Get their labs checks to ensure their vitamin D, vitamin B, and iron are sufficient if they have access to healthcare.

-Spend time in light daily (either outdoors or supplemented with a light box if that’s financially feasible for them).

-Movement if that works for you.

-Breathing or breathwork if that’s available to you.

We could list a few other mood suggestions, but I want you to think of what’s accessible and helpful for you. Decolonializing mental health care to me means a lot of things, including turning to you to see what works for you rather than paternalistically repeating advice from Eurocentric psychological research.

We’d love to hear one of your favorite things for your mood plan. Feel free to add something you intend to incorporate into your mood plan without perfectionism. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you next week with more about you and your healing.

With kindess,

Dr. Joharchi

Feel Those Feels

Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

Maybe you’ve been having some feelings. I want to say it’s okay if you have sadness in your heart, some uneasiness in your mind, or feelings of loneliness. It’s all okay no matter what. In fact noticing the feelings at all is change.

Let’s talk a little bit about feeling feelings in the body rather than trying to think them out in the mind or analyze the feelings. I’m not saying checking in with your body will reduce your pain or suffering. I’m simply saying we can feel the full extent of our feelings through the body. I recommend that we feel rather than bypass, soothe or cope. Don’t get me wrong, we all side step feelings sometimes and that may be what is needed to get through something.

It’s just that a temporary distraction may stuff down the feelings or put them somewhere else, but our bodies know what’s up. Our bodies are these really smart things that we demonize, abuse, and escape. I’ve done it too, I get it. It’s just that feeling feelings rather than analyzing thoughts or escaping has been more helpful clinically and personally.

Any body scan meditation can help or a quick face check where you see how the forehead, jaw, and shoulders feel can be helpful. I briefly notice tension in the forehead, clenching of the jaw, or high shoulders throughout the day. While this noticing does allow me to release these areas, it’s actually meant for nothing more than simply checking in with my body. Our bodies know what’s up even if we don’t. It’s okay to feel feelings. You can let us know what comes up as you give yourself and your inner parts space to feel feelings and sensations. Great job reparenting by letting yourself feel.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

Where Does Forgiveness Start?

Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

Sometimes we want to forgive or release someone or something for a wrongdoing or resentment we’re holding.  Perhaps someone hurt you.  Maybe a system or place or thing didn’t give you a chance.  Perhaps intergenerational stuff has been passed down to you and you want to release from this stuff.  Maybe what you hoped for did not happen.

Oftentimes forgiveness advice is focused on letting go of anger.  This advice will be a little different.  Today we’ll focus on self-forgiveness not on other people.  Feel all the anger or other feelings you want to feel.  

You may not blame yourself, but if there’s a chance you have some shame or hurt, self-forgiveness may be helpful.  

We can make room for self-forgiveness by feeling any feelings you have to their full extent.  This may mean sitting for a couple of minutes alone where you can feel your feels all the way.  Maybe this means quiet time.  Or maybe this means crying for a few minutes and letting the tears fall without beating yourself up.  In fact, tears release toxins, so let those tears come.  Let your chest feel tight, heavy, sad, whatever it feels.  Let your tummy feel whatever it feels.  Let your pelvis feel achy.  Let your shoulders well up with tension.  Let your forehead ache.  Let it all be for a couple of minutes.  It may be so scary to feel your feelings all the way.  Perhaps nothing comes.  That’s totally okay too.  Feeling feelings doesn’t mean you’re doing something about them.  There’s no need to worry that you’ll act out from a place of feeling triggered.  You can simply try your best to feel without doing a thing. 

Sometimes when our inner parts get a chance to be experienced in the body they aren’t in there kicking and screaming in the form of shame, inner criticism, or acting out.  I’m really proud of you for even considering feeling your feelings.  I think it’s really hard and really hard not to at the same time.

If after you’ve felt your feelings such as anger, grief, sadness, or disappointment you’d like to ground yourself you may find a sensual grounding strategy helpful like smelling citrus or touching something cool.  Getting back into our bodies and into the moment can help us feel that annoyance, anger, or disappointment in ourselves for letting back in that hurtful dating prospect, expecting more from a family member, or hoping a system would change their ways.  We can also have a deeper, more authentic compassion for those parts of ourselves that didn’t expect what was coming or expected it and tried anyway.  Perhaps we can talk to ourselves a little like we’d talk to a friend or our inner child when they made a hard mistake or when they were hurt.  Rather than shame them, let’s give them a huge hug of understanding with our words.  If they want to explore how they can do differently next time that’s fine, especially once they’re in a better place, but for now let’s feel the feelings and talk compassionately to ourselves.   It may be hard to find compassion for ourselves if our mistake is a repeated pattern.  That’s understandable.  Feeling the feels and exuding compassion will still be helpful before exploring how we can do differently next time.  Someone with this type of pattern may even benefit from therapy or a healing space where they can explore where and why they keep doing xyz.  Hands on my heart, I’m sending you lovingforgiveness for whatever self-forgiveness you may be working on.  

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

Four Tools for the Feels

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Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

Some folx ask about how to feel their feelings. I get it. It’s hard to feel feelings. I will say in my experience as a clinical psychologist I know you have everything you need right now to feel your feelings. There actually are no tools one needs, but because we are programmed to get away from the moment it can be very confusing and baffling to tap into one’s emotions or express emotions. Some people may struggle with feeling their feelings because there wasn’t room to express oneself in their home or within society or because they may not have had models to display emotional expression. For example, in Farsi people say “don’t cry” as a soothing statement, but now I find this confusing and contradictory as we now know that when we cry we actually release toxins. There’s so much messaging around suppressing one’s feelings. Sometimes the only emotion expressed in one’s household was anger. This can also be confusing when people feel sadness, disappointment, and an array of other emotions. I also believe we may not fully feel joy if we don’t allow for all our feelings to be felt, even less desirable feelings. You may explore where stuck grief, feelings of abandonment or loneliness, sadness, or other emotions can be hard for you with a healing provider, but for now here are some tools to help feel the feels. Also, if it’s too much for you, you can stop.

  1. Writing it out: One way people can feel and release their feelings is somatically. This can be done through movement including talking, writing, dancing, etc. If you choose to write it out it may be helpful to focus your writing on identifying the part of you that is feeling this feeling and where it comes up in your body.  For example perhaps it it is your inner critic part and comes up as low back aches and you turtle up.
  2. Grounding: Additionally, folx can ground themselves in the moment through strategies that are calming for the senses (such as feeling the weight of a blanket on you or rocking from side to side or like you might in a rocking chair) or you may benefit from alerting sensory strategies (such as smelling something citrusy like an orange or eating something sour mindfully).  
  3. Breathing: A few sessions of breathing big, slow and long everyday can change the parasympathetic nervous system. When we do breathwork we can have access to healing and giving our nervous system a chance.
  4. Note what arises: You can let feelings or thoughts arise without attaching stories to the feeling or deriving a conclusion from what arises. While your analytical mind may be helpful, it can be even more valuable to focus on the moment by grounding, breathing, and letting thoughts and feelings be without figuring stuff out. When observing or noting a thought or feeling we don’t engage in an inner dialogue between the inner critic and inner defender, which only takes us further from the moment.

I’m offering a few ways to feel one’s feelings as not everyone may be able to or have access to each of these approaches. It’s okay too if one of these tools does not fit. There is no goal you need to arrive at with feeling your feelings. You’re already doing a good job. You’re already enough as you are. I’m wishing you gentleness and self-compassion on your emotional expression journey.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi


Body Kindness During Pandemic

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Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

How can we have gentleness with our body changes during this global pandemic? Some of us lost our muscles or gained more flesh. Some of us lost touch with movement that was empowering and felt good to our bodies while others gained a more mindful relationship with food and ditched the punishing ups and downs of diet culture. For some, not being able to get beauty services the way they once did may even trigger gender dysphoria. There’s so much compassion to be had with whatever happened to your body during this traumatic time.

I believe we can have great compassion for bodies as we are in fact facing trauma with this pandemic. The adverse childhood experiences survey (ACES) was first created by a doc who noticed his patients were gaining weight after a weight loss surgery and it was correlated with trauma. I believe our relationship to food is deeply attached to childhood. We go to a bottle of powdered milk or a breast or other source for milk for nourishment, comfort and attachment. I believe we go back to food over and over for nutrients and so much more. And that’s okay. But when a trauma like this pandemic happens, it’s perfectly understandable that people will feel their eating or bodies are not where they want. We can have great compassion for the baby within who needed and needs nourishment plus so much more during scary times.

Furthermore, not accepting the trauma that came up through body changes during the pandemic may leak over into shame or negative thoughts of self. Radical, deep acceptance will allow us to move and eat with attunement more than shame will. Shame may get us on a diet or to temporarily obsess and control, getting further and further from any actual sustainability and acceptance. Plus would we love a child only when they fit xyz body image or once they lose the weight they gained over the pandemic? What about your child within? Can we send some compassion and acceptance to her right now? I love your inner child no matter what. This stuff is hard, let’s keep helping each other be as compassionate and accepting with our bodies as possible.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

The Power of Groups

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Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

I recently received a validating, compassionate email from a previous friend from a time in my life when things were difficult and I felt alone. It reminded me of the power of groups because at that time in my life I went to a group where I learned to release behaviors that no longer served me. Years later I ended up serving folx in similar situations and then became a clinical psychologist where I continue to work with people individually and in groups.

Group therapy and support groups provide a sweet opportunity to open up and connect. Connection is so precious these days in times of colonialism and the pandemic. Group therapy can be led by someone like a clinical psychologist who may be experienced with folx they serve, whereas a support group can be made up of members of the group with lived experience. For example, as a cisgender psychologist I can conduct group therapy with Transgender adolescents with my experience serving at gender clinics and having had the opportunity to serve many Trans and nonbinary people. However, I wouldn’t be in a support group with Trans adolescents because I’m not Trans nor an adolescent so I don’t have the lived experience to be in a support group with Transgender teens.

If you feel connecting through a group may serve you please consider a few components of groups that can make the experience what you need.

Access

We want to consider access issues such as insurance coverage, transportation, and language differences. There’s also internet access and access to a private space if you share space and need an internet connection to join a group. Financial barriers may limit one to a group too. Unfortunately, there are so many barriers to accessing a group you may desire or need. If there’s a group secretary or therapist you may brainstorm ways to increase accessibility so you can be a part of the group.

Safety

We also want to consider the many levels of safety to consider. For example, does the group leader represent the members of the group or at least acknowledge their privilege? Are things kept confidential within the group? Are people gossiping in group? There’s a lot that can be done to increase the safety of a group so long as people have some intentionality and care around how people are treated in the group.

Openness

Opening up in ways that feel safe for you and are not too raw, too soon can be helpful. For example, some folx may want to share at a group level while others may benefit from sharing with a sponsor or therapist before sharing at group level. Additionally, openness may not have been praised in your family or society growing up. Praise any tiny ounce of openness you display. I’m so proud of you for trying out connection through a group.

Connection is a healing balm for humanity. Some of my deepest connections and repairing have come from group settings so I’m forever grateful for and in support of your healing in whatever ways that looks for you.

Soft Heart Psychology conducts therapy groups from time to time so please feel free to reach out and let us know if you need a particular group.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

Serotonin Kit

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Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

Human suffering is nothing new and 2020/2021 are no exception. I hope all supports are on deck to help people with traumas from this pandemic. One of the supportive things we can get on deck is our bodies and that includes things like incorporating the parasympathetic nervous system and hormones like serotonin. We’ve discussed the importance of the parasympathetic nervous system and what we can do for our nervous systems in previous articles. Now I’d like us to focus on serotonin because we know that serotonin can help with sadness and nervousness. The serotonin kit can’t replace therapy or medication, but below are a few suggestions on how to build a serotonin kit just for you! Take what you like from the kit and add or remove what you need. You can even share favorite ways you help yourself access more serotonin in the comment section below if you’d like.

Movement

People hear from doctors, famous psychologists, and people everywhere throughout time how important movement is for our body and spirit. While this is true, it is also important to move in alignment with what we need for that day. What are ways your body needs movement? Do your hips or calves need movement or perhaps your back or wrists? This is coming from someone who use to plow through half marathons despite the pain it caused. This is coming from someone who subscribed to diet mentality with abandonment of the body. I embrace new ways to move my body as someone who is releasing from image driven, colonialist ways of measuring worth through athletic performance and image. You can connect with movement in ways your body needs today. Perhaps it is a few minutes of dancing rather than training for a marathon. Or perhaps you want to feel the crunch of leaves on a walk outside. Maybe it is trying a physical activity you haven’t tried before or a long-lost activity that you crave. You can consult with your team (medical and or other healing professionals) about ways in which you can move safely. Maybe even consult with your inner loving team on what your inner world needs to express themselves and move today.

Light

Have you ever felt a renewed sense of gratitude, grounding or joy when sitting in the sun? Serotonin may be boosted through more exposure to light via the sun or a therapeutic light such as happy lights. Sometimes sunlight or a happy light can feel activating so it is best not to engage before bedtime. I know you’ll know how to care for your skin to make sure the sun doesn’t hurt you, but other than sunscreen there’s not much to be said about this part of the serotonin kit. This is simply a reminder of what cultures all across the globe have known and practiced throughout time. The sun or a therapeutic light is healing and can help boost one’s serotonin.

Tummy

Certain foods can also help us access more serotonin. Since I’m a Psychologist and not a Nutritionist or Coach I won’t delve into this suggestion much, but I will say you can ask one of the experts about how to boost serotonin in the gut.

Whatever you do, listening to and loving on you as you heal from the devastations of this pandemic is a win. I’m proud of you for trying to develop a kit just for you in whatever that looks like for you.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

4-Part Series on Tips for OCD: Part 4

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Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

This tip is pretty simple, but it has been the most helpful suggestion for people I know. Learning as much as you can is helpful for OCD. It allows the noting thing we talked about in the beginning of this series to be that much easier. Learning more about OCD takes away some of the narrative that what the OCD tells us is true. We never want to invalidate feelings. However, there are some OCD narratives that can be scary and when we don’t know whether it is true or not it can feel scary plus confusing.

With OCD people have obsessions and compulsions, and sometimes both. They wax and wane throughout the month and over the years. Sometimes people will notice them go away or come back in another form. We’ve focused primarily on the obsessions in our four part series, but feel free to let me know if you want more articles on compulsions. There’s several types of OCD thoughts. We know they come up more when someone has too much caffeine and can sometimes be triggered by other substances. OCD is also triggered by less sleep, before someone menstruates, with change, and the media. There’s lots that can be done to lessen or even eliminate some of the triggers and nonetheless OCD can still arise. Education about what is OCD and that it is not your fault can transform life and your treatment approach. There is so much hope to be had with learning about OCD.

When you learn about the different types of OCD that may pick at your relationship, body, or character you can then note them as a thought, and not as truth. It gives us a little needed distance to say “hey, I think I learned about this type of OCD, maybe this is — type of OCD and not a sentence for who I am. Maybe I’m not horrible for thinking this intrusive thought if it’s simply a neurological firing.”

There’s some helpful and unhelpful information out there about OCD so please be mindful about what you take in rather than going down a rabbit hole about rabbit holes or ask your therapist to learn more about OCD. I find the video below to be helpful in addition to the workbook I’ve recommended (http://<p>https://bookshop.org/a/23992/9781626254343</p>). Lastly, I recommend folks use their highest coping such as deep belly breathing while delving into OCD info because sometimes people need breaks or to feel as calm as possible learning about OCD. Please be gentle on yourself and let me know if you’d like more on OCD such as family/community support or more on compulsions.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi